Hotel workers strife returns to SF

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By Steven T. Jones
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Image from SF Chronicle

San Francisco hotel workers plan to demonstrate in the streets tomorrow afternoon, the day that UNITE-HERE Local 2’s contracts with the major San Francisco hotels expire, launching what could well be another pitched labor battle with larger political implications.

In 2004, shortly after Gavin Newsom became mayor, a standoff between the union and the coalition of corporations that own the city’s biggest hotels resulted in strikes and lockouts that were San Francisco’s most significant labor fights of the new century. Newsom tried to mediate the conflict and when the hotels (which had back him for mayor) defied his demand to end the lockout, he walked the picket line with workers.

That moment and Newsom’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples that same year were arguably the high water marks for his standing with progressives. After that, he checked out, moved to the right, and began to pursue celebrity and the governor’s office.

Now, with hotels apparently using the economic downturn as an excuse to cut their workers’ numbers and benefits, the union gearing up for the fight of its life, and Newsom more focused on running for office than city business, this one might just get ugly. The fun begins at 4 p.m., near the Four Seasons Hotel, Market between 3rd and 4th streets.